Roll and stroll through Hercules, CA

A couple of friends and I have a joke about how you can take San Pablo Avenue all the way to Los Angeles.  Of course in truth it starts at the top of Contra Costa County and runs through all the cities along the San Pablo Bay, ending just a few blocks west of Lake Merritt in Oakland.  That’s two counties anyway, and an impressive stretch of boulevard connecting our historic Bayfront towns. For driving north

Blend of old and new architecture

Blend of old and new architecture

and south, I’m using San Pablo Avenue more often, rather than put up with the massive transit on Interstate 80.  Along the way I’ve discovered how this thoroughfare, which in fact is the historic and scenic Highway 40, is evolving with its well-defined bike lane, offering alternatives to being caged in our cars.

Along San Pablo Avenue in the city of Hercules, there are signs naming the bike lane, the “I-80 Bikeway”.  I love how that label seems to give more credibility to this alternative to commute transportation.  And the bike path through Hercules is safe and scenic; getting to school or work, or running simple errands can be pretty convenient throughout this city.  The Contra Costa Transit Authority has released a draft update of the Contra Costa Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.  Public workshops were held in June to engage the community in expanding the opportunities of bicycle transportation throughout the county.  More information is available on the City of Hercules website:  http://www.ci.hercules.ca.us/index.aspx.  As stated on the site, “If you are interested in the process and would like to read the draft plan or the previous Issues and Options Report, visit the Contra Costa Transit Authority website on the update to the Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan at: http://www.ccta.net/EN/main/bike/cbpp.html.”

I have to say that the urban design of Hercules has made this city very bike and walking friendly; eco-friendly indeed!  When it’s time for a leisurely bike ride or stroll I recommend exploring the up and coming Sycamore Downtown district. At the junction of Sycamore and Railroad Avenues you’ll find a charismatic blend of old and new architecture.  From Railroad Avenue turn onto Santa Fe Avenue where the newer neighborhoods circle around to embrace the historic homes of Bay Avenue, Pinole Street and Talley Way.  Throughout the Sycamore area, the new architecture purposely invokes the feel of “small town America” with the inviting porches and “gingerbread” décor of over a century ago.   The urban design of connecting neighborhoods encourages people to walk about to shops and restaurants and enjoy the wide-open view of the San Pablo Bay.  While exploring on a weekday I saw several people walking their dogs, or on lunch-hour jogs, and kids making their way back home off the big boulevards through paved pathways into their neighborhoods.  Off the concrete sidewalks, you can make your way along the more rustic Railroad Avenue path all the way to neighboring Pinole with a continuous view of the San Pablo Regional Shoreline.

Parks and open space take up about one-third of the terrain in the city of Hercules; a generous portion to consider if the urban sprawl of the Bay Area has one concerned.  In the middle of Hercules is one of the prettiest city parks I’ve had the pleasure to dwell in:  Refugio Valley Park, located at junction of Refugio Valley Road and Sycamore Street.  With over sixty six acres, the park beckons with spacious lawns, unique and captivating sculpture gardens, sparkling water fountains and a calming lake complete with lazy swans a-swimming.  It’s the perfect place to get away on your lunch hour; but beware, I’m sure it’s going to be hard to return to the office!

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